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Dairy Initiatives

​Dairy is a growing industry in the High Plains and Rocky Mountain region. HICAHS aims to help dairy farms with improving the health and safety of its workforce. It is our belief that healthy workers lead to healthier cows and greater farm productivity and economic sustainability. HICAHS is working on addressing the needs of the dairy workforce through various research and intervention projects, including optimizing dairy machinery equipment to be safer for employees.


 Worker Health and Safety Needs


HICAHS has developed several advisory boards to assist with the direction and development of its dairy projects. The HICAHS Dairy Network, Dairy Advisory Board, and International Dairy Research Consortium provide avenues for partnership among researchers and stakeholders within the dairy industry.

In 2009 we held our first workshop with dairy industry stakeholders to generate recommendations and strategies for dealing with health and safety challenges. A consistent theme was that language and cultural issues present a problem with communication between management and labor. Over 90% of dairy workers in the HICAHS region are immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries. Immigration issues are stressful for both workers and employees. Farm owners and managers identified a need for a comprehensive health, safety and general wellness program for their workers that includes leadership training in employee management and occupational health and safety. Chemical exposures, mental/emotional health, and injuries are among other issues identified by our board members and documented in our meeting notes.

​Dairy Research Areas

HICAHS has funded and participated in many research projects focused on improving health and safety in the dairy industry. The projects listed here are being conducted specifically for the dairy industry, but our work on preventing tractor roll-over fatalities and ATV safety is also applicable. For a complete list of projects, see the organizational chart of HICAHS dairy projects since 2011.

 Antimicrobial Exposures


Sub-therapeutic doses of antimicrobials have been administered to agricultural livestock, poultry, fish, and oil crops within the United States for four decades or more. Antibiotic resistance organisms (ABRs) and traces of antimicrobials can be found in livestock feces, which may contribute to a greater environmental presence of drug-resistant organisms. Paul Gunderson's "Exploring Shed Antimicrobials Exposures within High Plains Livestock Operations" project (2013-2016) will identify and quantify antimicrobials found within livestock feces, soil and airborne dust to estimate dermal and respiratory exposures to shed antimicrobials. Samples are being collected at swine and dairy farms.




Respiratory diseases including chronic bronchitis and occupational asthma are a significant problem among dairy workers, contributing to high employee turnover, decreased productivity, and higher worker compensation costs. Improved characterization of agricultural aerosols is needed to explain the causes of respiratory diseases and to develop interventions that effectively reduce exposures. HICAHS is studying this problem through the project " Bioaerosol Exposures and Models of Human Response in Dairies"  led by Stephen Reynolds (2011-2016). Samples of aerosols are collected at dairy farms in the HICAHS region. The samples are undergoing a secondary analysis of the microbiome through the Collaborative Health Research on the Microbiome and the Environment (CHROME) project.




​Ergonomics is the practice of designing products, systems or processes to optimize them for the people that use them. Ergonomists have competency in optimizing performance, safety and comfort. The HICAHS Project "Exposure Assessment and Intervention Analysis" led by David Douphrate (2011-2016) will address the health and safety of large-herd dairy workers through assessment of musculoskeletal stress, plus provide recommendations to dairy owners and workers on how to prevent injuries.


 Safety Training


HICAHS is developing a dairy safety training program designed with regard to the culture and language of  Spanish-speaking dairy workers. Dr. Noa Román-Muñiz, a veterinarian raised on a dairy farm in Puerto Rico, is leading the HICAHS project, "Enhancing Safety Training Effectiveness in Large-Herd Dairy Production."  Dr. Noa Román-Muñiz's previous research demonstrated that involving co-workers in providing safety training greatly benefited other workers by decreasing the likelihood of injury. A possible explanation is that co-workers convey vital safety information in an informal and more culturally acceptable manner to new employees, which leads to less work-related injuries.2




​1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. (2014). Retrieved from

2. Román-Muñiz, I. N., Metre, D. C. V., Garry, F. B., Reynolds, S. J., Wailes, W. R., & Keefe, T. J. (2006). Training Methods and Association with Worker Injury on Colorado Dairies. Journal of Agromedicine, 11(2), 19-26. doi: 10.1300/J096v11n02_05